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City Council Vote Will Keep Austin's Public Toilet Program Afloat

Martin do Nascimento
The city launched its portable toilet pilot program in 2017.

The city has given the go-ahead to a contract that would keep its portable public toilet operating for the next five years. The 24-hour toilet, which aims to keep the downtown area clean over special events like this weekend's Austin City Limits Festival, will cost Austin $115,000 this year.  

Today's Council approval extends an agreement with Blue Chem Inc. to continue cleaning and operating the portable toilet, which was initially intended to be a stop-gap measure until the city built a permanent one. Blue Chem was the sole contractor competing for the bid. The firm's previous contract was set to expire in January. 

The new five-year contract will cost the city no more than $775,000. The facility is manned from 6 a.m. to midnight by an attendant who cleans and monitors its use.

The restroom, which is periodically set up within a 5-mile radius of the Capitol, has been making the rounds in Austin for a little over a year, as the city determines the best location for a permanent restroom. Initial discussion of a public restroom in Austin was floated as early as 2012. Environmental advocates cite runoff from sewage and wastewater – as well as human waste from nightlife and special events – as major contributing factors to unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in Austin's creeks and urban streams.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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